Girls Rule technology camp teaches computer science

Rick Wagner • Jun 19, 2019 at 5:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — From learning the basics of electrical circuits to operating a computer-controlled caterpillar, computer science was front and center for some area rising fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade girls this week.

The girls also got to take apart computers and put them back together. Well, at least they almost got the machines back together on Monday at Northeast State Community College’s Basler Library, where partially reconstructed machines were gathered on the main level.

It is all part of the second annual Girls Rule Technology Summer Camp, held from Monday through Thursday at Northeast’s Blountville campus. It had 25 registered, 10 more than the first year. Girls Rule is an immersive, hands-on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — experience in which girls participate in exercises in different areas of computer science. Camp runs 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day and is free with lunch provided to participants ages 10-12.

Monday afternoon, the students were painting black canvas bags with neon paint after they had put in lighting circuits using LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

“They are painting the colors for the constellations,” said Donna Farrell, Computer and Information Sciences Business Technology division head over a department better known as computer science.

“When I was in college 30 years ago, I was the only girl in computer science,” Farrell recalled. She said it is about the same now as a professor at Northeast. “My goal is to get them interested at this age.”

Judging from impromptu interviews with some of the participants, the mission to encourage STEM careers had some success.

Sequoia C. (the program doesn’t track last names, and some students gave initials, some gave last names and some gave no last name), a rising fifth-grader at Sullivan County’s Holston Elementary School, said she doesn’t plan a computer science career but quickly added, “I want to be a doctor.” Farrell said physicians use computer science, and Sequoia said her favorite thing Monday was computer coding to make robotic caterpillars move.

Morgan Kiser, a rising fifth-grader at Eastside Elementary in Elizabethton, said she liked the bag exercise and might become a firefighter, while Alyssa Wilson, a rising seventh-grader at Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, plans to mix the arts and computer science.

“I’m going to be a singer and have computer science involved with my life,” Morgan said, adding that she liked a virtual reality exercise with an oculus.

The campers interact with Northeast State faculty, students and guest speakers in several different computer science areas, including:

· Networking (getting computers to communicate with each other).

· Assembling computer hardware (disassembling a computer, learning what each part does and putting it back together).

· Programming a Raspberry Pi (learning Raspian and Scratch programming languages to create worlds on a really small computer).

· Learning how to create your own webpage using HTML and CSS.

· Flying drones (using simulation programs, putting a drone together and understanding how they fly). That was Wednesday at Northeast’s aviation campus in Gray.

· Understanding cyber defense (defending yourself against cyber bullies).

· Creating electronic circuitry (creating a constellation using LED lights).

· Using a 3D printer (making bracelets using a 3D printer).

· Meeting a female FBI agent and female helicopter pilots.

For more information about the camp, funded by a grant, visit its web page at: www.northeaststate.edu/Business-and-Community/Girls-Rule-Technology-Camp/ or contact dsfarrell@northeaststate.edu.

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